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Richt Continues To Show That He’s The Class Of The Conference

When I write something good about someone’s actions, I’m called a homer.  When I write something bad about someone’s actions, I’m called a hater.

Sometimes it’s worth the hate mail.  This is one of those times.

For my money, there is no better representative of an SEC university than Georgia’s Mark Richt.

Last week, Richt bit his tongue as messageboards and call-in shows lit up with folks discussing his “renegade” program.  When it was learned that several of his players had not actually been involved in harassing a married couple in an Athens taxi, Richt had an opportunity to lash out.

But rather than bark about the media or point a finger at a writer, Richt kept his cool and discussed the dangers of rushing to judgement in our instant-media world.

There were no “we’d be going at it right now” comments.  No “be very careful” warnings.  There was only a lesson… that sometimes the first word on an issue isn’t the correct word.

We shouldn’t be surprised by Richt’s even-keeled response.  Last year his Georgia team suffered through its worst year under his leadership (which for the record was still an 8-win season that ended in a bowl victory).  Midway through the year, Richt was questioned about the direction of his program.  Several writers suggested that UGA football was (and is) in decline.

With two SEC titles, an average of 10 victories per season, and more success in Athens than anyone since Vince Dooley, Richt had the motivation and the ammunition to jab back.

He didn’t. 

No one was banned from practice.  No newspapers were cut off from all things Dawg.

In fact, when I asked him on an SEC teleconference if it was frustrating to deal with such “the-sky-is-falling” reaction, Richt took the high road.  He gave an open, honest answer that could best be summed up as follows: “It’s just part of the job and I’m lucky to have the job.”

Last week, Richt had to do what is probably the least favorite part of his job — he had to dismiss a player from his team.  Montez Robinson had been in trouble before, over a number of screw-ups.  But the linebacker’s third arrest in six months could not be ignored.  So Richt ended his Georgia playing career.

But the story doesn’t end there. 

Robinson is still in the Athens-Clarke County Jail.  Having violated the terms of his probation from two previous arrests — all three involved domestic disputes with a female Georgia student — Robinson will have to spend at least a few more days in lock-up.

Guess who has visited him there.

“He’s just hurting,” Richt said after meeting with his former player.  “He’s suffering right now.  But we’re helping him understand that he can still have a bright future if from this point forward he does what he’s supposed to do, what he needs to do.”

Robinson is off his team.  Richt has a program to run and nearly 100 other players to watch over.  But Georgia’s head coach and some of his assistants have still taken the time to check in on and give encouragement to one that they had to leave behind.

Again, this kind of action shouldn’t surprise anyone.  When linebacker Jamar Chaney was denied admission into UGA back in 2005, Richt helped convince Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom to give Chaney a chance in Starkville.

That fall, as Georgia and State prepared to meet on the field, Chaney called Richt to thank him for his help.  “We didn’t even talk about football much at all, except how he was doing,” Richt said at the time. 

“It didn’t surprise me at all that Coach Richt did what he did,” Chaney said.  “He’s a great man.”

Fans want undefeated seasons.  The media want headlines.  Richt may or may not supply enough of either to please those two camps, but he does provide something else in bunches — class.

While Nick Saban and his disciples build moats around their programs and while Urban Meyer makes threats and shoots dirty looks, it’s good to know that there’s someone like Richt in the SEC coaching fraternity.

It’s one thing for a man to say, “I want my son to play for that man.”  Many folks used to say that about Bobby Knight for gosh sakes.

But it’s far more important in the grand scheme of things for a man to say, “I want my son to BE like that man.” 

Richt is human.  At some point in the coming months, I’m sure he’ll do or say something out of character and I’m just as sure that this post will be jammed back into email box when he does.

That’s fine with me.  Because year-in and year-out, no SEC coach shows more class, more compassion, more common decency than Mark Richt. 

And, oh yeah, did I mention he wins 10 games per year?




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